Three years of self-imposed isolation comes to an end on 8 January 2023, opening the world’s largest outbound tourism market pre-Covid up to global travel and South Africa could reap its rewards.
This as the Chinese government announced this week it would manage Covid-19 with measures against Class B infectious diseases, and not Class A infectious diseases; effectively opening the gates for outbound tourism since the pandemic shut borders early 2020.
In 2019, the number of outbound tourists from China peaked at nearly 155 million. South Africa saw a tiny portion of that (93,171 Chinese travellers). However, there are hopes that the pent-up demand for travel likely to exist in that source market will bode well for South Africa in 2023.
Says Rosemary Anderson, FEDHASA National Chairperson: “South Africa has long sought to attract Chinese travellers but numbers have remained low, not least because of the friction these have when trying to apply for visas to visit the country.
“It is our hope that as part of the visa efforts underway, our government will recognise the massive potential held by this source market in helping our recovery and implement a visa-friendly regime that will make it far easier for them to visit.”
South Africa’s post-Covid recovery in 2022 has been aided largely by the luxury travel market out of North America and Europe, unleashed after successive lockdowns and eager to seize the greatest of all time trips. However, with rising geopolitical tensions, inflationary pressures and depressed economies, there are concerns that demand will soften in the new year.
Faced with the same prospect of freedom, expectations are that Chinese travellers could follow their Western counterparts and embrace revenge travel to make up for lost time – a trend that South Africa should capitalise on, says Anderson.
“We would urge travel trade catering for the needs of this market in South Africa to actively promote the destination and special packages to capitalise on China’s reopening,” she says.
Travel sites are already reporting a spike in traffic with destinations closer to home among those recorded as most popular – Singapore, Republic of Korea, Japan and Thailand. “We need to be at the front of the queue,” Anderson adds. “There can be no question of the potential that the Chinese market holds for South Africa and its tourism and hospitality business – not just in terms of the size of that market, but also in terms of its spend, both of which will help tourism and hospitality businesses realise their potential to build South Africa’s economy and create jobs,” concludes Anderson.